Academic Decathlon students and volunteers are all winners

By From page A5 | February 15, 2012

As students representing Oak Ridge, El Dorado, Union Mine and Ponderosa high schools filed into the theater of Union Mine High School last Saturday afternoon, the question on everyone’s mind was who would win this year’s 30th annual El Dorado County Academic Decathlon.

Ponderosa High School entered the contest with 19 consecutive wins under its belt and by day’s end teammates would hoist the trophy for consecutive win No. 20.

This year’s topic was “The Age of Imperialism: The Making of a European Global Order.” Students were challenged to study a span of history dating from 1036 to the mid-19th century covering a wide breadth of information related to the topic.

The Academic Decathlon covers 10 areas of study including: economics, art, language and literature, mathematics, science, music, social science, essay, speech, interview and a super quiz.

Organizing an event like this takes many dedicated people. More than a hundred were involved, including judges, timekeepers, proctors, scorers and those providing technical support. Some folks have been volunteering for several years, including this year’s master of ceremonies, Roy Malone — his 29th year.

Kudos also go out to the Placerville Kiwanis Club. Some of its members took time out on a sunny Saturday morning to prepare lunch for student competitors. Now there’s a generous example of commitment to our young students and education.

I was honored to be invited to assist as this year’s Super Quiz moderator. The role of the moderator is simple: read a total of 30 questions to the four participating teams. The questions appear on a giant screen above the stage. Carrie Pearson, projector operator; Roy Malone, time keeper; and I would work in unison while giving students seven seconds to jot down their answers to each question.

Some students might find answering the questions stressful. For the moderator, the stress comes from reading the questions accurately. After receiving the list of questions earlier in the week it was obvious a crash course in the Chinese language would be required.

Here’s one of the questions presented during the Super Quiz:

In 1911, the beleaguered Qing Dynasty was overthrown by Chinese nationalists led by
a. Sun Yat-sen
b. Ho Chi Minh
c. Qin Shi Huang
d. Mao Zedong
e. Jiang Jieshi

Proper pronunciation is important. So I sought help from the newsroom staff at the Mountain Democrat.

“Anyone here speak Chinese?” I asked.

The blank stares told me all I needed to know.

“You buying lunch?” one reporter asked back. “You’ll find a menu for the Golden Dragon Chinese restaurant on the desk behind you.”

I eventually discovered an online dictionary that sounded out words of all origins. Within a matter of minutes I was speaking fluent Chinese. Well … at least the names of the Chinese emperors I needed to recite for the quiz.

Thirty questions later, followed by the final tally of all 10 scoring events, culminated in another victory for Ponderosa High School.

Congratulations to Principal Lisa Garrett, Coach Terri Kessler and the decathletes at Ponderosa High School for winning this year’s El Dorado County Academic Decathlon. And a special acknowledgment goes out to all those volunteers, parents, principals, teachers, friends and supporters of the participating students.

Your involvement and volunteerism is what makes El Dorado County such a wonderful place to live and learn.

(The correct answer to the question above is Sun — pronounced “Soon” Yat-sen).

Richard Esposito is the publisher of Village Life. E-mail him at [email protected].

Richard Esposito


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